Bears’ Teven Jenkins upbeat as move to right tackle looks increasingly likely
Whereas former GM Ryan Pace almost certainly would’ve insisted on making it work at left tackle to justify picking Jenkins so high, Ryan Poles doesn’t have to. He just wants to find a way to use him. It’s better to flourish at right tackle than fade at left.
One of the positives of changing general managers is that it eliminates any personal attachment to the roster. Ryan Poles has no incentive to make his predecessor’s moves look smart. He’s coldhearted in his evaluations, and that’s necessary for a team that went 22-27 the last three seasons.
If Poles can salvage a head-scratching draft pick while reshaping the roster to fit his vision, great. That’s a bonus. If not, he can sweep the player out as part of the rebuild.
That concept is especially relevant when it comes to second-year offensive tackle Teven Jenkins. Ryan Pace traded up to draft him No. 39 overall last season as the rest of the NFL seemed to be scared off — at least that early — by his history of back trouble and the fact that most of his playing experience was at right tackle.
But Pace was certain he’d be the Bears’ left tackle of the future.
At this point, however, Jenkins’ future is anything but clear. Poles sounds like he needs some convincing on Jenkins in general, and it’s uncertain whether he should be on the left or right side. For much of the offseason, fellow second-year man Larry Borom has been working at left tackle and Jenkins has been at right.
Whereas Pace almost certainly would’ve insisted on making it work at left tackle to justify the pick, Poles doesn’t have to. He just wants to find a way to use him.
The upside for the Bears is that Jenkins seems to feel the same way.
“I play wherever they need me — get in where you fit in,” he said. “It’s more about, ‘Where can I be the best for the team and . . . what certain position is going to elevate the whole offense?’ ’’
That’s not merely best for the team; it’s best for Jenkins. Better to thrive at right tackle — or any position, for that matter — than wilt at left.
“In a certain way, yeah,” he acknowledged. “Yeah, it is.”
Jenkins gave no hint of discontent Tuesday as he processed the strong possibility that his career is taking a sharp right turn.
He made reference to someone, presumably coach Matt Eberflus or an assistant, simply telling him at the start of offseason practices that he was moving to right tackle, and that was that. Eberflus and Poles have repeatedly left open the possibility of flipping Jenkins and Borom back, but this is clearly headed in a particular direction.
“We’re going to work this all the way through to the first game,” Eberflus said last month, keeping with his approach of divulging nothing of substance whenever possible.
The roster Poles inherited was rife with shortcomings, and the offensive line was at the top of his to-do list as he planned his renovations. Unfortunately for Poles, he had a severely restricted budget for the project because of salary-cap-space constraints and a depleted stock of draft picks. He’ll be free of both hindrances after this season.
In the meantime, he can help himself by developing players such as Jenkins. There’s a chance the Bears could be looking to fill all five O-line starting spots in 2023. If Jenkins emerges as an answer at any position, that’s one less repair for Poles.
That evaluation already is well underway based on film study of the six games Jenkins played in after missing most of last season because of back surgery and of his career at Oklahoma State. There isn’t much to be discerned from non-contact offseason practices other than Jenkins is moving well after dropping 20 pounds to 325 and strengthening his core to avoid more back injuries.
After the Bears fired the general manager and coach who collaborated to bring him in, that’s a good start for Jenkins as he makes his case to his new bosses.
“It’s about earning trust and earning their belief that I deserve to be on this team still,” Jenkins said. “I’m working for that trust.”